I know, I know, the nut roast has had a bad press over the years. But thankfully the days of dried out bits of tasteless, hard, leathery tack are long gone. This lentil & Brazil nut roast is a perfect vehicle for all those delicious Christmas roast accompaniments, not forgetting the stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. It also stops the vegetarians and vegans feeling excluded in a mixed meal.
Raw chocolate is where it’s at. The interest in raw foods generally is growing and it’s no revelation now that chocolate can be good for you. It has a number of virtues including vitamins, minerals, omega 3 and 6. fatty acids, flavanoids and theobromine. So far, so good. However, this is mitigated against by the processing and additives such as sugar that go into “normal” chocolate. The darker the chocolate the better it will be for you. Raw chocolate does not go through the same heat processing and thus retains more of its beneficial effects. The jury is still out as to whether agave syrup is better or worse for us than sugar. It has a low glycaemic index but is high in fructose.
These homemade chocolate Brazils may not be quite as healthy as the sugar-free We Should Cocoa challenge I have set for January, but they were jolly delicious and contained only a small amount of sugar. They are also suitable for vegans.
When it comes to bananas, CT and I are not fans. Strange, therefore, that I ended up buying a whole bunch of cheap bananas the other day. My eye for a bargain has let me down on numerous occasions, as a box full of ready made pasta sauces languishing at the back of a cupboard will testify. I worked my way through the apples and then the pumpkins and now it looks as though it’s the turn of bananas. This may be the first of many posts on the subject!
If I’m going to eat bananas, baked in cakes is one of the best ways, so I dutifully leafed through my baking books. Being in the mood for something sweet and comforting, Dan’s banana blondies taken from Short & Sweet sounded just the ticket – lots of sugar, white chocolate and caramel – you couldn’t get much sweeter than that!
This is how I made them:
- Placed a large pan on a low heat and poured in 75g vanilla sugar followed by 2 tbsp of water.
- Allowed the sugar to dissolve then upped the heat until the sugar was boiling. Let it boil for about 5 minutes when the colour started to darken and a drop plopped into a glass of cold water set hard. Getting this bit right is always tricky as you want a hard caramel but you don;t want a burnt one.
- Stirred in 75g chopped Brazil nuts then quickly poured out onto a piece of baking parchment to cool and set.
- Broke into pieces.
- Melted 100g unsalted butter and 200g vanilla flavoured white chocolate in the same pan (I’m a great believer in saving on washing up).
- Removed from heat and stirred in 225g vanilla sugar.
- Beat in 1 egg and 2 bananas – peeled and finely chopped.
- Sifted in 225g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and 1/2 tsp baking powder.
- Added the broken nuts and mixed until just combined.
- Spooned into a 9″ sq cake mould and baked at 180C for 20 mins.
- Left to cool, then cut into little squares.
Having mentioned the C word in my last post, I am fully committed to it now. In a bid to try and remember what Christmas is all about and to get away from the avid commercialism associated with it, Vanessa Kimbell has created a thought provoking Let’s Make Christmas event. The idea is to inspire people to make their own Christmas gifts this year – or at least some of them. As I’ve always tried to make a few of my own each year, I heartily approved of this sentiment. Then Vanessa came up with a second Let’s Make Christmas event which I was also keen to participate in. She is hosting a food blogger gift swap – in Fortnum and Masons no less. I haven’t been to this shop in many many a long year, but it still lives on in my memory as a perfect Aladdin’s cave of foodie delights. I really didn’t want to miss out on this one.
But oh what to make, what to make? It needed to be something light, that would travel well and could be made well in advance. My first thought was biscotti, as the ones I made last year were so good. On reflection though, I thought this wasn’t very original so contemplated making these chocolate oranges instead. But, having mulled that over, I rejected it, mostly because the only organic oranges I could find were thin skinned and your really need thick skinned pithy oranges for this. Hmmmmm, various biscuits, brownies, tiffin, truffles all came to mind. Then I was sent a copy of Cox Cookies & Cake to review. The review will follow in a later post, but one of the recipes that leapt straight out of the page was this one – oh well back to the biscotti idea after all. But pumpkin biscotti! Surely not many others will be doing that. And we did manage to grow quite a few large pumpkins this year, which nicely tied into my seasonal theme. Having been inspired by Karen’s mixed spice over at Lavender & Lovage, I was keen to make my own for this recipe. The only missing ingredient was chocolate, but chocolate dipped biscotti can only be a good thing, surely?
Something this special required a freshly ground spice mix. I often make my own mixed spice for baking and this was one of those times.
Mixed Spice Recipe
- Ground 2 inches of a cinnamon quill in the coffee grinder with 1/4 tsp of cloves, 2 star anise, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, 1/4 tsp black pepper corns, the seeds from 5 cardamom pods and 1/4 tsp allspice berries.
- Added a good grating of nutmeg then pounded it further in a pestle and mortar to make it as fine as possible.
So here you have my first batch of pumpkin biscotti. I shall make some more for the big do in London nearer the time. I halved the recipe, although the mixture was so wet (probably because I added more pumpkin than I should have) I had to add quite a few spoonfuls of additional flour to the mix, so this is really quite a bit more than half. Here’s how I did it:
Spicy Pumpkin Biscotti Recipe
- Steamed 80g of peeled and chopped pumpkin (Boston Marrow) flesh for 15 minutes until tender.
- Left to drain for a good half an hour to ensure it wouldn’t be too wet.
- Mashed with a fork.
- Toasted 100g mixed nuts in the oven at 180C for 10 minutes until just starting to brown.
- Placed in a pan and fried them in 15g butter for a few minutes.
- Sieved 225g flour (100g white, 125g spelt) into a bowl with 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp of the mixed spice.
- Added 175g dark brown sugar.
- Made a well in the centre and added 1 large egg and the mashed pumpkin.
- Mixed this in, starting in the middle and working outwards.
- Added about 3 tbsp more of spelt as the mixture was very wet.
- Spooned onto a baking tray lined with a silicone mat in a rough log shape.
- Baked for 25 minutes at 180C.
- Left to cool for 20 minutes.
- Cut 1 cm slices diagonally across the log with a bread knife (17 long pieces in total).
- Placed the slices on two lined trays and baked at 160C for a further 15 minutes.
- Left to cool on a wire rack.
- Melted 60g 72% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
- Coated the ends of 8 of the biscotti in the melted chocolate by means of dipping and pouring it over with a teaspoon.
- Left on a wire rack to set.
- Placed in a jar and tied a ribbon and tag around it (I use old Chrismas cards as tags).
Nutty, spicy and delicious, I thought these had the necessary star quality to travel with me to London. I was particularly pleased with the spice mix, which was so much more aromatic for being freshly ground. These were not overly sweet as evinced by CT’s first comment on biting into a piece, “mmmm, tastes like a sausage” – great! However, once covered in chocolate, no more mention was made of sausages, just pleasant grunts of satisfaction were evinced. The only thing I would do differently is to make much smaller pieces – I had to find a very tall jar for these to fit in.
We are well and truly being kept on our toes with this challenge. For some reason Dom doesn’t think we are being as random as we should be in his Random Recipes challenge. To get around this, he has teamed us up with another blogger this month, who is responsible for selecting the book and page number for us. This reduces the chance to cheat somewhat. NOT, I hasten to add, that I have ever done such a thing. I was teamed up with Miss Cake Baker of What I Baked This Weekend and in a series of exchanges via Twitter she selected Chocolate Brazil soft-baked biscuits from Green & Black’s Unwrapped. I am always terrified I’m going to get something really difficult, but once again, I was lucky.
I had already made these, way back in the early days of my blog but they hadn’t turned out quite as I’d imagined. So rather than asking MCB to choose again, I thought it would be good to give them another go, use a less dark chocolate and add a bit more milk.
This is what I did:
- Roughly chopped 50g Brazil nuts and 125g milk chocolate (46%).
- Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 60g vanilla sugar (granulated) until soft and fluffy.
- Beat in 1 duck egg and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract.
- Sifted in 175g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.
- Stirred in 2 tbsp milk.
- Folded in the nuts and chocolate.
- Placed 20 teaspoonfuls on lined baking trays then flattened them with a fork dipped in water. The recipe stated the dough should be rolled out, but I couldn’t see how that would be possible with all those chocolate lumps and bumps and the mixture was a little too moist anyway.
- Baked at 180C for 12 minutes.
The biscuits didn’t spread this time either, but I managed to flatten them more than I did in my first attempt and they thus had a better texture. They weren’t too sweet and were delicious warm whilst the chocolate was still melted. A definite improvement on the first time. CT got his cold, but he also thought they were delicious.
This recipe is the Tin and Thyme version of Nigella’s Florentines. They’re easy to make, if a bit messy and they are nutty, chewy and delicious to eat. The dark chocolate creates the perfect foil for the sweet biscuits. They make great gifts for family and friends at any time of the year, but particularly at Christmas.
Not to be outdone, in his bid to take over the world, Dom of Belleau Kitchen has come up with a new challenge – a random recipe challenge. It’s simple: a book is picked at random and from it a recipe is chosen at random. The idea is that you get to try recipes that you have never used before. How could I resist? Of course, I had to modify the proposal a little to get my chocolate fix in. So this is what I did: